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Sunday, December 06, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Faithful Work"

“Faithful Work”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
December 6, 2015 :: Matthew 25:13-30 

I want for us to recognize and celebrate one last group of workers on this last Sunday of our sermon series on work, “Working for the Lord.”

This last group of workers is one that I’ve mentioned every week in this series but haven’t yet asked for them to stand.

This is the group of workers who are not employed. That is to say those who work but don’t do their work for compensation. They don’t have a “job’ with a capital “J.”

So, this is all of the students. We’ve said that the second, third, and fourth graders all are workers and should do their work for the Lord. So, I want all of you students to stand.

And this is all of the retired people. If you haven’t stood already for a field of work, this is your time. You continue to work. I remember Blair Murray used to say that he was so busy, he didn’t have time to have a job!

And this is for all of the folks who are unemployed right now. You are looking for work and that is your work.

And this is also for those who are disabled and unable to work for compensation right now.

You might not even be able to stand today, but we recognize you anyway.

Because when it comes to our work, contribution is much more important than compensation!

So all of you workers who are not compensated, I’d like you to stand now and be recognized and celebrated.

Thank you! Thank you for your contribution to our community and to the common good.

Your work matters. God cares about it. I know that can be hard. Do your best.

Your work is worship. Your work is discipleship. You work matters to God.

All of you, thank you. Well done. Good job!

And that’s what today’s message is about. It’s about hearing that commendation, that “Job well done,” not from me or you, but from the Lord, when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Our key verse all Fall has been Colossians 3:23 and 24.

I hope we have it memorized. Let’s say it together one more time:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

And what do you want your Master Messiah, your Lord Christ, to say to you when your work is all over and done?

Today’s message is entitled “Faithful Work,” and it comes from Matthew chapter 25 verses 13-30 which is part of what Bible scholars commonly call “The Olivet Discourse,” that long teaching segment of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 where the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives taught His disciples about the end-times, about the end of the world and about His return, the second coming of Christ.

The theme that keeps repeating throughout this section is that Jesus’ disciples should live in constant expectation and readiness and watchfulness because we do not know when Jesus will return.

Jesus has said something like that in chapter 24, verse 36, verse 42, verse 44, and verse 50. And then in this chapter, he tells three stories to illustrate the principle.

Our story for today is the middle story of the three.

But the point of all of them is that we should be watchful and ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

The first story ends with verse 13 which serves as a bridge into our story for today:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

We are living in the last days.

We are closer than ever to the return of Jesus Christ.

Now, I’m NOT saying that we are living in the last of the last days. I don’t know that.

Sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it? Especially with the headlines that we read in the newspaper?

Some of you have asked me recently to do more teaching on the End Times because  it feels like we might be in them.

But we know that Christians throughout history have felt the same way, that their generation may be living in the last of the last days.

And we also know that the Lord Jesus told us specifically to not be setting dates and that things like false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes and all kinds of bad things like that do not tell us that the end has arrived. Jesus made that very point in chapter 24. Those things must happen but the end is still to come. They are beginning of the birth pains, not the end.

V.13 again.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

But we do know that the Bible calls this time that we are now living in between the first advent of Christ and the second advent of Christ, “the last days” or the “last hour.”

Hebrews 1:2, James 5:3, 2 Peter 3:3, 1 John 2:18

We are living in the last days, the days between Jesus’ first coming (Christmas) and His second coming.

And just because of the passing of time, we know that we are closer now than we have ever been to the return of Christ.

And the question is, how are we supposed to live while we wait for His return? V.13 again.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Keep watch. That’s how we are supposed to live.

Ready for His return.
Ready and waiting.

Expectant, anticipatory, longing, leaning towards it, ready for Him to return.

Keeping watch.

But! This watchfulness is not at all supposed to be passive.

While we are waiting for the return of Christ, we are not supposed to just lean back and lay around. It’s not that kind of waiting.

It’s not like waiting at the bus stop or the airport terminal. Nothing’s happening. You just sitting there until your ride comes.

Some people in the Bible were like that. Some of the men at Thessalonika had quit their jobs and were just waiting around because they thought the return of Christ was right around the corner.

In the 19th century, some people thought they knew the day and the hour of Christ’s return, and they gave away their possessions and just waited around to be taken up. “Beam me up, Jesus!”

And then it didn’t happen like they expected, and they didn’t have anything left. How disorienting would that be?

What did Paul tell those men at Thessalonika?  Get a job!

Get to work.

This “being ready” or “keeping watch” is not a passive thing like waiting for the bus, but it’s an active thing. There are things to be doing while we are waiting.

Things like...work.

#1. WE ARE ENTRUSTED.

We are given a job to do. Verse 14.

“‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Again [another story to illustrate this point], it [the kingdom] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Jesus is telling a parable.

And it’s not that hard to interpret, at least the main points.

The man going on a journey is who?  Jesus Himself.
And the servants are who?  They are us. They are people.

What are the “talents of money?”

It’s a little confusing because a “talent” in Greek is a unit of money measurement, not our gifts and special abilities like how we use the word “talent” in English.

It’s confusing because we actually get our word for “talent” from this word and this story, I believe.  Because we all have gifts that God has given us, we call them “talents” after these piles of money.

The 2011 NIV just calls them “bags of gold” which is actually very helpful for getting the picture of what’s going on here.

Because this was, in the story, a whole lot of money. One “talent” or one bag of gold was equivalent of 20 years wages for a day laborer.

I’m not sure how to translate that into today’s dollars. What would a day laborer make right now, multiple that times 20 years of days. That’s big chunk of change.

And, in this story, the master leaves 5 of those for one servant, 2 for another, and 1 in another why? “Each according to his ability.”

He had a good idea of what each one could handle.

And so he entrusted that amount to each one.

Now, what do the bags of gold in this story stand for in real life?

Well, I think that they’re everything and anything that the Lord has entrusted to us.

So they are what we call our “talents,” our gifts and abilities.
And they are our money which we are supposed to be stewards of, money managers for God.
And they are also our assignments in life...including our jobs, our callings.

These talents in the story are the gifts and assignments that the Lord has entrusted to us to manage and do while we wait for His return.

So, put your job in that word when you see it there.

You have been entrusted with your work.

It’s your assignment right now, and the Lord has put it in your hands to manage until He calls you to another job or until your work on earth is done or until He returns.

Now, a couple of things to notice about this.

First, notice that we are to expect some kind of delay. The master goes off on a journey and doesn’t come back right away.

Some people think that because the New Testament emphasizes expectancy, that nobody in the New Testament could have guessed that it would be some time until Jesus returned. Just because the Bible calls us to be ready at any time doesn’t mean that the apostles made a mistake in thinking that it was going to be soon.

Right here, the master goes on a long journey, and it will be long enough for the servants to get some work done investing his gold while he’s gone.

I don’t think we should be surprised that Jesus has not yet returned. Peter says that He’s being patient and giving more people more time to repent.

But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t coming back soon. We don’t know when, so we need to be ready. Which means staying busy with what he’s entrusted to us.

Second, we shouldn’t get jealous of other people’s gifts and assignments. Some get 5 bags of gold, some 2, some 1. But everyone gets something to do.

And it’s based on how He sees things working the best.

So, we shouldn’t be despising someone who has a different calling that we do.

Don’t look around the room and envy the people who stood a different week than you did. Or look down on the people who stood a different week than you did.

Just do what God calls you to do. Just be grateful to have been entrusted with what God has put in your hands to manage.

...And be faithful with it.

That’s the point of this story. V.16

“...Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.”

You can see where this story is going!

Two kinds of workers. Faithful and unfaithful.

How many faithful workers are there? Two.

How many unfaithful workers? One.

How many were entrusted?  Three. They all were, right?

Everybody has been given a job to do.

The question is not whether or not we have a job but whether or not we’re going to be faithful with it.

Now, I think that this applies directly to evangelism, with sharing the gospel.

It applies directly to missions, to spreading the gospel.

And it applies to all kinds of church work, building the church around the gospel.

The first application of this call to faithfulness is gospel ministry and disciple-making.

But what have we learned this Fall?

We’ve learned that it’s all ministry. That our work is discipleship. That our work is worship.

We’ve learned that our work is entrusted to us by our master. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving” when you are doing your “day job.”

So it’s all kingdom work in some way.

The question is whether or not we’re going to be faithful at doing it.

We are entrusted.

Do you feel that?  I hope that everyone is beginning to get that. God has entrusted you with a job to do.

And He cares whether or not you do it.

And How you do it. Do you do it in the way that He wants it done?

Everything that we’ve talked about all Fall.

It comes down to this, will we be faithful or not?

You know it’s funny. We tend to think that if this is the End Times then what we need to do is to freak out.

Vote a certain way.
Stock up on canned goods and dry foods.
Fill your basement with guns.

But Jesus said that when then end is drawing near, we should just stay busy about His business and faithfully do our jobs.

If the end is near, then we should be getting up and going to work.

How do you want your Master to find you when He returns?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be working at what He told me to do.

Because #2. WE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. V.19

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

Those are sobering words, aren’t they?

There will be accountability for our performance with that which He has entrusted to us.

Do you have a performance review at work?

I have one every year done by the elders, and I do one for Marilynn every year.

But this is the ultimate performance review. Are you ready for it?

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

What did you do with what I left in your hands?

How did you invest your life? Your gifts and your assignments?

Were you faithful or not with your work? V.20

“The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' [A 100% on your investment. That’s awesome.] ‘His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' [Also a 100% return on the investment.] ‘His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'”

#3. WE WILL BE REWARDED.

If we are faithful, we will be rewarded.

I love those words in verse 21 and again in verse 23.

And I long to hear them said to me.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

That would be reward enough.

To receive the commendation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is more than just commendation. There is, somehow, more responsibility.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'”

I think that points to the way things will work in the future, in the kingdom and the new heavens and the new earth.

There will still be work in the consummation. Remember when we said that back in September?

It just will be work without the curse. Work but not toil. Work with no groaning. All groaning with be gone.

But contribution will not. Work will still be there.

And if we are faithful now with the few things that the Lord has given us to do, then we will get more and better to do then.

Isn’t that a great incentive to faithfulness now?

God has an incentive program for our work, too!

You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Let’s get going and party!

“Come and share your master's happiness!'”

Now, again, notice that the reward is the same for both the 5 talent guy and the 2 talent guy.

We should not assume that because someone has a big job to do here that they will experience more blessing in the life to come.

That’s up to God.

What we can expect based on just this parable is that if we are as faithful with our job as someone else is with their’s, we can both expect the same commendation and more responsibility and a hefty common portion of our Master’s joy!

No matter what your job is, if you are faithful with it, you can expect to share in the happiness of Jesus Christ!

And the opposite is true, as well. Those who are unbelievers, those who do not trust the Lord Jesus and do not show up for work can not expect to be rewarded. Quite the opposite. V.24

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'”

He almost seems mad at the master, doesn’t he?

“Why did you give me this job?

I don’t love you or trust you. I’m just sacred of you. So I disobeyed you.

Here’s your stuff back. I didn’t do what you asked.”  V.26

“His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? [You think that I exploit people, do you?] Well then [if you are so scared of me], you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers [at least!], so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”

“What have you been doing?”

The master’s been gone a long time, and this guy has nothing to show for it.

Just an assignment that he didn’t lift a finger to do.

What a scary phrase to hear from the Lord Jesus, “you wicked, lazy servant!”  You sluggard, you slacker, you have been worthless.

He actually calls him “worthless” or “useless.” v.28

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The condemnation of the judgment.

Unbelievers will lose the life and talents and assignments and treasures and all kinds of other gifts that they have received in common grace if they will not trust the Lord Jesus and show that they trust the Lord Jesus by obeying the Lord Jesus.

But those who do believe Him and trust Him and put their faith in Him will show it by being faithful to Him.

“For everyone who has will be given more and he will have abundance.”

That’s what I want for all of us in this room.

Abundance. Now and forever.

And it comes as the fruit of faithfulness.

If we are faithful, we will be rewarded.

So are you being faithful to your callings?

If you died today, what would you expect your Master to say to you?

You have been entrusted.
You will be held accountable.

What would you hear?

What do you want to hear?

What do you need to change to know that you will hear it?

Whatever your job is, whatever your callings are in life, they are callings of the King, and He wants you to be faithful to do them in anticipation of His return.

That’s how we are to live in these last days.

Watchful, but not passive.

Actively busy with our business for the King.

Ready for Him to return and inspect the troops.

At any time.

Yesterday, my son Peter got a buck. His first deer, and our family’s first buck, and I’m pretty proud of him.

When the buck first appeared on the horizon, I was on my phone.

I was shopping for health insurance with my freezing little fingers. I wasn’t really hunting.

But Peter was. He was watching, watching, watching. He was ready.

But he wasn’t just sitting there. He was active. He had his eyes peeled, and he was scanning the horizon. He was busy doing what he was supposed to be doing.

And it paid off.

We didn’t know the day or the hour that that buck would come through, but Peter was ready.

And now I can say to him, “Well done, son. Good job!”

How much more should we watchful and ready and expect and busy doing our jobs so that we can hear our Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Come and share you my happiness!”

I know that some of you are worried by today’s message.

Your heart longs to hear the master say, “Well done!”

But you know how much you have failed. You know that you have not been consistently faithful.

You have a tender conscience, and this message almost makes you feel crushed.

“I haven’t been faithful. I don’t want to be the wicked and lazy servant, but I know how far I’ve fallen short.”

There is good news at this table for you.

This table stands for the Cross of Jesus.

And at the Cross, Jesus took all of your failures and paid for them.

And at the Cross, Jesus was crushed so that you would not have to be.

And at the Cross, Jesus gave you His perfect track record of faithfulness.

There was nobody who embodied “good and faithful servant” like Jesus did.

But He died the death of a criminal. He died like a wicked and lazy servant deserves.

For you and for me.

He did His job faithfully, and He offers that gift to you and me.

That’s what this table represents.

Your sin on Him. His righteousness on you.

If you know Jesus in that way, then you are invited to eat and drink in celebration of Him.

If you do not know Jesus like that yet, then now’s the time to trust Him. I invite you to put your faith in Him now. Turn from your sin and receive the Savior.

Let the plates pass you by. Instead, use this time to place your life in the hands of Jesus and trust Him as your Lord and Savior.

Because One day soon He will return.

One day, we will definitely be in the last of the last days.

But we don’t know the day or the hour so for now, we trust God, we keep watch, and we stay faithful.


***

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest
07. Called to Work
08. Prayer at Work
09. Your Attitude at Work
10. Working in the Name of the Lord
11. Love at Work
12. Co-Workers
13. Faithful Work

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